It makes no sense at all"
—Hüsker Dü, "Makes No Sense at All"
Hüsker Dü were an American Hardcore Punk / Alternative Rock band from St. Paul, MN who were together from 1979-88. They were composed of singer / guitarist / lyricist Bob Mould, bassist Greg Norton, and drummer / lyricist Grant Hart. While they never had a hit record, among their most well known work is the Concept Album Zen Arcade, the follow-up New Day Rising, their Cover Version of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High", and their single "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely", which was notably featured in the film Adventureland and covered by Green Day. They are regarded as seminal in the creation of the Alternative Rock and Post-Hardcore genres.
Rising tensions between the two primary songwriters, Mould and Hart, eventually led to the band's breakup in 1988. Since then, Mould and Hart have launched their own solo careers, while Norton became a restaurateur in the Twin Cities. Bob Mould has released an autobiography called: See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, while Grant Hart was the subject of a documentary: Every Everything, the Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart.
Although mainstream success eluded them, the influence they had on bands such as Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, Jawbreaker, Green Day, Foo Fighters, and a plethora of others has secured their place as one of the most important bands in modern rock music.
As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki.
Sadly, Hart passed away in September 2017.
- Bob Mould guitar, vocals
- Greg Norton bass
- Grant Hart drums, vocals
- Land Speed Record (live album, 1982)
- Everything Falls Apart (1983)
- Metal Circus (1983, considered an EP though it's only a few seconds shorter than Everything Falls Apart)
- Zen Arcade (1984)
- New Day Rising (1985)
- Flip Your Wig (1985)
- Candy Apple Grey (1986)
- Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)
- Everything Falls Apart and More (1993; compilation of the band's first album and other early studio material, bringing it up to the length of a typical album)
- The Living End (live album, 1994, recorded 1987)
- Extra Circus (EP consisting of Metal Circus outtakes, released in 2017)
- Savage Young Dü (2017; 3CD/4LP box set of early material, including remastered versions of most of the Everything Falls Apart and More material and a live set containing most of the same songs as Land Speed Record)
They also released assorted singles, many of which feature non-album tracks on their B-sides; "Eight Miles High", meanwhile, has an A-side not featured on any album.
Never Troping to You Again:
- All Just a Dream: The first 20 songs of Zen Arcade, given "The Tooth Fairy and the Princess" (song 21).
- Alternative Rock: One of the first alternative bands to sign to a major label.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: How they ended up with their name. While doing a cover of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" during a rehearsal, they were unable to remember the French portions of the lyrics and instead started shouting out any foreign words they could remember. One of the phrases ended up being "Husker Du," and they decided to use that (with added Heavy Metal Umlauts) as the name of the band.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Grantzberg Vernon Hart.
- Badass Mustache: Greg Norton.
- Based on a True Story: "Diane" is about the real life rape and murder of West St. Paul waitress Diane Edwards by Joseph Ture in 1980. (See Murder Ballad, below.)
- Blah Blah Blah: They have a song with this title.
- Breather Episode:
- Quite a few of them on Zen Arcade in particular. The first three examples listed under Out-of-Genre Experience below count, as do songs like "Monday Will Never Be the Same," "One Step at a Time," and "Never Talking to You Again".
- Other albums have songs like "Perfect Example," "Games," "Hardly Getting Over It" (though this one only counts as a musical breather; emotionally it's as intense as the rest of the album), "She Floated Away," and "No Reservations." The most extreme example is probably "The Baby Song" from Flip Your Wig.
- Call-and-Response Song: The verses of "In a Free Land."
- Careful with That Axe: The verses of "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill" are mostly Grant Hart screaming at the top of his lungs. They did this a lot, actually, to the point where it was arguably their main vocal style at one point.
- Concept Album: Zen Arcade, which tells the story of a boy who leaves an unfulfilling home life to find that the world outside is even worse.
- Cover Version: "Eight Miles High," Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and "Helter Skelter." They also were known to cover "Ticket to Ride" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" in live concerts; the latter can be found on their live album The Living End.
- Crapsack World: One of the primary concepts of Zen Arcade.
- Dance Sensation: "Do the Bee."
- "Days of the Week" Song: "Monday Will Never Be the Same."
- Deliberately Monochrome: The covers for Savage Young Dü and Metal Circus.
- Despair Event Horizon: "Too Far Down" and "Hardly Getting Over It" are both about depression. "Too Far Down" could be considered to represent the hopelessness one feels upon the first onset of the illness, while "Hardly Getting Over It" represents the numbness one feels after suffering months or years of it. The band has other songs that also deal with depression, but these two stand out.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Grant Hart usually drummed without shoes.
- Downer Ending: The band's collapse after failing to find commercial success.
- Drugs Are Bad: "Pink Turns to Blue" is about a girl who fatally overdoses.
- Eagle Land: While not an overly political band (at least by Punk standards), songs such as: "In a Free Land," "Folk Lore," and "Divide and Conquer" portray America as a Type II.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Norton wrote a few songs on the early releases ("Let's Go Die," "M.T.C.," plus co-writing "From the Gut" and "Blah, Blah, Blah" with Mould), but from Metal Circus onward, Hart and Mould wrote all the songs that appeared on their studio albums (occasional covers and a few tracks credited to the whole band aside; Norton did get the "Could You Be the One?" B-side "Everytime," which also appeared in a live version on The Living End). Everything Falls Apart and More also features experiments with a few styles that they wouldn't do much with later (e.g., Post-Punk), and the early releases feature much more Miniscule Rocking than they would use later.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Particularly after the almost nightmarish "The Wit and the Wisdom," "Don't Know Yet," the ending of Flip Your Wig, feels like a musical example.
- Echoing Acoustics: A common feature of the production on their studio albums, especially the later ones.
- Emo Music: The band themselves don't qualify, but the "classic emo" bands of the 1990s, especially Jawbreaker, were heavily influenced by them.
- Epic Rocking: "Reoccuring Dreams" clocks in at 13:47 (14:01 on some versions of the album). The unabridged version of the band's early single "Statues" is 8:45 (it was edited down to a 4:25 mix for the physical release, which is also the version used on Savage Young Dü; the unedited version is found on Everything Falls Apart and More). "Hardly Getting Over It" is 6:07. Finally, Savage Young Dü gives us a 6:48 rehearsal version of "Data Control" and a 6:16 live version of "It's Not Fair."
- Fading into the Next Song:
- Land Speed Record only has gaps for LP side breaks. Even by the standards of live albums, it stands out here, given that the band would rarely pause between songs at this point when playing live, and in fact, most CD versions of the album have only two tracks.
- Everything Falls Apart doesn't use it quite as much as Land Speed Record, but there's still a fair amount of it:
- "Punch Drunk" -> "Bricklayer" -> "Afraid of Being Wrong"
- "Sunshine Superman" -> "Signals from Above" -> "Everything Falls Apart"
- "Wheels" -> "Target" -> "Obnoxious"
- On Metal Circus, "Diane" -> "Out on a Limb" (a faint one, but still present).
- Zen Arcade uses it a lot, too. The only time the CD version completely fades out, actually, is for LP side gaps, but in some cases, it's mostly tape noise. However, there are several songs that very audibly fade into one another:
- "Broken Home, Broken Heart" -> "Never Talking to You Again" -> "Chartered Trips"
- "Dreams Reoccurring" -> "Indecision Time"
- "Beyond the Threshold" -> "Pride"
- "What's Going On" -> "Masochism World"
- "Somewhere" -> "One Step at a Time" -> "Pink Turns to Blue" -> "Newest Industry"
- "Monday Will Never Be the Same" -> "Whatever"
- On Candy Apple Grey, "Hardly Getting Over It" -> "Dead Set on Destruction".
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: Shortly after "Ice Cold Ice" fades out, a final chord is played at the song's original volume.
- Friendly Rivalry: With fellow Twin Cities rockers The Replacements.
- Genre Roulette: In addition to the clear contrast between Mould and Hart's styles as songwriters, their albums go through an enormous number of musical styles, especially Zen Arcade and Warehouse. (For instance, "She Floated Away" is basically a sea shanty and "Actual Condition" is a rockabilly song on speed.)
- The Greys: Alluded to in "Books About UFO's.""I know that somewhere in some faraway galaxy
That some gray men with telescopes are gazing right into her eyes"
- Grief Song: "Pink Turns to Blue."
- Hardcore Punk: Their early material consisted of fast, blistering hardcore with slight hints of the melody that was to come.
- Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Even though they're not a Metal band. Probably ironic.
- Instrumentals: "Reoccurring Dreams" and "Dreams Reoccurring" from Zen Arcade; "The Baby Song," "The Wit and the Wisdom," and "Don't Know Yet" from Flip Your Wig. The former two are Norton's only writing credits on any of their later albums apart from "Hare Kṛṣṇa," "How to Skin a Cat," and "Plans I Make," all five of which are credited to the whole band (Mould gets credited for the latter two's lyrics).
- Live Album: Two. Their full-length debut, Land Speed Record, and The Living End, a compilation released after the band collapsed.
- Lonely Piano Piece: "One Step at a Time" and "Monday Will Never Be the Same."
- Looped Lyrics: "New Day Rising" has no lyrics besides the song's title. "Plans I Make" has a brief loop of: "I gotta make plans for the plans I make / Gotta have plans for the friends I make / I gotta have friends for the friends I make / Gotta have friends for the plans I make / Go make plans." After the first minute, the rest of the lyrics are: "go" and "make plans."
- Loudness War: Their career came and went before this trope was much of a problem. The recent reissues still haven't been extreme examples by modern standards, with the exception of one or two odd examples such as "Stick It to Me (live)" and "Wheels (live)" on Savage Young Dü, and the vastly improved sonic clarity will almost certainly counteract any concerns people might otherwise have about dynamic range.
- Meaningful Name: The band's name was taken from a board game, the title of which means "Do you remember?" in Danish and Norwegian. The band added the Heävy Mëtal Ümlauts.
- Metal Scream: Hart and Mould both were really good at this.
- Miniscule Rocking: Land Speed Record packs 17 songs into 26 1/2 minutes. Only "Data Control", at over five minutes in length, proves an exception to this trope (it's also played at a much slower tempo than the rest of the album).
- On Everything Falls Apart, "Punch Drunk" is 0:30, "Bricklayer" is 0:34, and "Obnoxious" is 0:55. Their usage of this trope would drop off with time.
- Minneapolis/St. Paul: Robert Street (an actual thoroughfare in St. Paul, not a person) is mentioned in "Diane".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Mostly a 6-7 on their early albums, mostly 5-6 later on (though they have some songs, i.e. "Never Talking to You Again," "Perfect Example," "Too Far Down," and "Hardly Getting Over It," that drop below this point).
- Mood Whiplash: Masters of it. It's one of Zen Arcade's most obvious musical characteristics. The contrast between the Nightmare Fuel of "The Wit and the Wisdom" and the Sweet Dreams Fuel of "Don't Know Yet" is also a pretty notable example.
- Murder Ballad: "Diane," which was apparently based on the real life rape and murder of West St. Paul waitress Diane Edwards by Joseph Ture in 1980.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: An early incarnation of the band featured a keyboard player named Charlie Pine, who was soon booted by the other three after they decided that they wouldn't need a keyboard player. For the rest of their career, the line-up would consist of Mould, Hart, and Norton.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Their experimental side is probably best seen on Zen Arcade. While the band's sound was still rooted in fast, aggressive punk, their songwriting had become noticeably more melodic, experimenting with elements of folk, noise, and psychedelic, as well as including piano interludes.
- New Sound Album: Either Everything Falls Apart, Metal Circus, or Zen Arcade (depending on the listener's perspective) is where their songwriting became melody-based enough to differentiate them from traditional hardcore. Then New Day Rising took this further still.
- Flip Your Wig had a much more polished production than their previous records (which had also been their intention for New Day Rising, but they were overruled by their label), and largely did away with the remaining traces of their hardcore roots. The band's next two albums would continue in this domain, with a sound closer to R.E.M. than to Black Flag.
- Noise Rock: Some of their instrumentals lean in this direction.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Terms of Psychic Warfare."
- Obsession Song: "Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill."
- Odd Friendship: Punk rocker Grant Hart ended up becoming close friends with novelist, essayist, and painter William S. Burroughs.
- One-Woman Song: "Diane."
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Even bearing in mind its stylistic diversity, Zen Arcade is structured so that the last song on each album side is dissimilar to the rest of that sides content. "Hare Kṛṣṇa" is a bizarre, chant-heavy, Eastern-influenced piece that sounds like nothing else on the album. "Standing by the Sea" is essentially the album's "Love, Reign O'er Me"; it's subdued (largely based on a bass riff) and, at the same time, anthemic. "The Tooth Fairy and the Princess" is a Creepy Awesome psychedelic song. "Reoccurring Dreams" is a lengthy instrumental jam, the only one of its kind in their discography.
- Pop Punk: An influence on the genre, and their later songs serve as examples.
- Post-Hardcore: One of the Trope Makers with their addition of melody and experimentation to Hardcore Punk.
- Post-Punk: The band counted Joy Division as an influence, and some of their earliest recordings, such as "Statues" and "Amusement" fall under this category. However, it wouldn't be long before they shifted their style to Los Angeles-inspired hardcore.
- Protest Song: "In a Free Land." "Folk Lore" combines this with Adults Are Useless.
- Pun-Based Title:
- Land Speed Record refers both to the ferocious speed of the material and the band's fondness (at the time) for amphetamines. And the fact that it is (well, was) a vinyl record. (As Mould explained, "We covered a lot of land. We took a lot of speed. And we made a record.") It's derived, naturally, from the phrase "land speed record," referring to the fastest speed clocked on land.
- The title of "Diane" sounds very close to "dying," and the song is, appropriately, a Murder Ballad.
- Recurring Riff: "Monday Will Never Be the Same" is essentially the main riff from "Newest Industry" played on a piano.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mould was the Red Oni, with his more aggressive songs, while Hart was the Blue Oni, with his more introspective songs.
- Rock Trio
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: "Gilligan's Island":"Gilligan's Island
Is where I wanna be
I wanna fuck Ginger
Underneath a big palm tree
I wanna make the professor
Make some good drugs for me
Oh Gilligan's Island
Is where I wanna be"
- Single Stanza Song: "New Day Rising" is just the title repeated over and over.
- "If I Told You."
- "Plans I Make," more or less; there's one actual stanza repeated a few times, and then the rest of the song just has "make plans" and "go" repeated over and over.
- A lot of early songs, such as the aforementioned "Gilligan's Island."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The lyrics of their early material were decidedly on the cynical side, though as their career progressed they began to drift slightly more toward idealism.
- Sociopathic Soldier: "You're a Soldier," of the "joined up to kill" variety.
- Strawman News Media: "Turn on the News" attacks media sensationalism.
- Straight Gay:
- While it had been an open secret in the Twin Cities music community for some time, Bob Mould officially came out as gay in the early '90s.
- Amusingly, while the band was together, the rumors swirled around Greg Norton being gay (mostly due to his awesome handlebar mustache) - he's the one band member who's actually straight.
- Studio Chatter:
- Mould, at the end of "Plans I Make," the last song on New Day Rising: "Who cares? It's the last song on the album."
- Theres also chatter after Everything Falls Apart and Obnoxious, though you have to turn the volume up a lot to hear it.
- Subtext: Mould is gay; Hart was bisexual, although this was not widely publicized at the time the band was active. This knowledge adds an extra layer of meaning to songs like "The Biggest Lie," which thereby becomes a very different song. (Note that, while it was rumored that Hart and Mould were romantically involved and their tensions were a reason for the band's breakup, both of them have flatly denied this).
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: Being a Hardcore Punk band, any of their acoustic songs count — especially the two on Candy Apple Grey. "Hardly Getting Over It" even has a synthesizer solo!
- Stop Being Stereotypical: In "Real World" and "Deadly Skies," Mould rejects the notion that punk bands need to constantly involve themselves in radical politics, thus emancipating the band from some of the expectations imposed on them by their subculture.
- Textless Album Cover: Warehouse: Songs and Stories; Savage Young Dü.
- Uncommon Time:
- "Masochism World" has patterns of 4+5+4+4/4, or 17/4, in its verses. Its choruses are mostly in 6/4, but there are usually an extra two beats in the last bar. It may jump around even more than that at other points its a fairly disorienting song.
- The verses of Bricklayer are in 7/4, though its played so fast its hard to notice.
- In a Free Land has an unusual rhythmic pattern before each chorus that, particularly due to its fast tempo, can be rather disorienting - it can either be counted as seven measures of 4/4 or a longer 14/4 measure. Additionally, Hart syncopates the opening drumbeat of each chorus to make it feel as though a beat has been taken out, though it isnt actually. Slowing the recording down makes it easier to follow, but only marginally.
- I Apologize has two extra beats before each chorus, throwing measures of 6/4 into otherwise 4/4 passages.
- The intro riff to How to Skin a Cat, reprised several times in the song, is an arguable variant; its so much of a tempo screw that it cant really be counted as straight 4/4, even though its roughly based on patterns of eight. If you try to count using uniform lengths of time, youll quickly get derailed from what the band actually plays; moreover, the transition to the songs other riff takes long enough that it could be counted as having an extra beat or at least, almost so (again, tempo screw).
- Vocal Tag Team: Usually, Bob and Grant would each sing on the songs they individually wrote, though sometimes they'd each take different vocal sections on the same song. Greg took a few lead vocals early on as well, mostly on the songs he wrote, and continued to sing backup vocals throughout the band's career.
- With Lyrics: A version of "The Wit and the Wisdom" featured as part of a live medley on the "Ice Cold Ice" single has lyrics; the original was instrumental.